Sunday, February 3, 2008

Consultant says: "Focus on Core" : Parsing the KMK Study

It’s been about two months now since the KMK Consulting study on economic development in Dayton went public. DaytonOS did a great service by putting the entire study online for download. There are also excerpts in Urban Ohio of the DDN news stories and an (accurate, IMHO) op-ed on response from local officialdom (which has been to shelve most of the study).

The study mentions the urban core, specifically downtown, a number of times. One theme is the Downtown Dayton Partnership’s “clean and safe” program gets high marks.

Here is some of the content, with commentary by yer humble host:

3.1 Executive Summary-
Findings from Stakeholder Interviews.

“A very strong recurrent theme from many of the interviews was the concern over “rearranging the deck chairs” on a sinking ship. This often led to a discussion about the City of Dayton as product, its value proposition…and the expressed wish that this exercise would be the catalyst for a bold, new comprehensive plan for the city.”

...not seeing much catalytic action. "This exercise" (the study) is being mostly ignored.

“There was a noticeable amount of criticism in the interviews directed toward leadership in both the public and private sector. . The common thread…focused on the lack of sufficient collaboration in developing a bold focus and aggressive enough plan for the City’s urban core.”

Dayton region has leadership issues. News. Or maybe some key players are not concerned about the urban core, so lack of collaboration.

“….many outside the City believe that one of the best strategies to make their own jurisdiction/community successful is to have a strong core city and strong urban center within the region.”

So why isn’t this happening?

3.2 Executive Summary- KMK Consulting Findings

(what the consultant sees and recommends)

“The solutions are more about the City as a value proposition more than an economic development systems.”

“The City of Dayton...needs to craft a new growth and opportunity focused value proposition for its residents and its businesses, particularly downtown.”

One see's an emphasis on downtown, and also something that looks a bit like branding or marketing: the “value proposition”

6.1 Recommendation For a New Economic Development Delivery System- Structure

Recommendation 3: Reinvent Dayton’s Value Proposition:

We highly recommend that the Dayton leadership launch an initiative to reinvent downtown Dayton. The City, in partnership with the County and the private sector, should secure the services of a national consultant to analyze the Dayton market and recommend strategies to transform downtown over the next ten years into a robust livable, residential, community.”

I put this in red becuase this totally not happening. Yes I know; hire another consultant for yet another study. But one can do some google searches and see this very thing happening in other cities

Downtown regeneration as an economic development strategy and recruitment tool is happening in St Louis and Lousiville, particularly in St Louis. Why is this not a priority in Dayton?

The key here is that top-level private sector actors are on board, including those with leadership ability, making the regeneration of the urban core a priority. Is this the case in Dayton?

4.2 Recommendation for a New Economic Development Delivery System- Acceptance and Implementation Issues.

This is a list of bullet points from the stakeholder/leadership interviews, and I think pretty revealing of the thinking in local officialdom and the private sector folks who participated:

*“Leadership, public and private, needs to think and act differently about the City of Dayton.”

I’d love for this person to elaborate on “think and act differently”.

* “The terrific positive developments of the new Care Source headquarters, the Dayton Dragons, Tech Town, and Ball Park Village are unfortunately not enough critical mass.”

And there is also the issue of relocating activity away from downtown (cf UD/NCR site). The concept of intensifying use in the heart of downtown via adaptive resue and creative infill is not even on the radar.

* “The testimonials of companies and their employees in leaving downtown are scathing in their rebuke of the city”

I think there is an opportunity here, to listen to the critiques of those departing.

*“There is no City of Dayton if there is no downtown. “

A slogan, but the next two are fairly eloquent:

*“…we must have a place where people, especially smart workers, truly want to live. And that requires…public and private sector leaders from Montgomery County and the surrounding regional footprint to be dedicated and collaborative in designing and implementing initiatives to restore the City and its downtown-our-downtown-to a place where people want to live, work, and play.”

*“The best course of action is to put a bold new economic development structure in place, followed immediately by crafting a new plan to reinvent the region’s urban core”.

None of this is happening. None of this is even being discussed. The silence is deafening.

About the only big initiative happening downtown, in the heart of downtown, is Bob Schiffler taking the lead on adaptive re-use of certain buildings (including marketing them).

Apparently Schiffler is also trying to recruit developers to come to the city. Presumably these are outside developers given the apparent lack of local developer interest in the center city. Even Ball Park Village has a Cincinnati partner as the locals apparently don't want to touch it.

This study and the mostly non-response to it is really kind of damning.

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